Proper drainage holds key to maximizing paddy growth in Kashmir

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR Nov 20: Although paddy output increased by 10 percent this year, resolving waterlogging problems in the low-lying Jhelum basins, which produce over 80 percent of the crop, is necessary to realising the crop’s full potential.
Experts claim that waterlogging is still a major obstacle in 80 percent of the Valley’s paddy fields, even though the region can grow paddy on Rs 1.29 lakh hectares with a potential yield of 8-10 tonnes per hectare.
According to them, working with the irrigation department is essential to realizing this potential since adequate drainage could increase paddy yield from the present 3.2 tons per hectare to 8 tons per hectare and free up cultivable land for the production of oilseeds and Rabi fodder.
“Approximately 80 percent of the paddy fields in the plains, particularly around the River Jhelum basin, remain underutilised due to waterlogging issues. Addressing drainage problems in these low-lying Jhelum basins, which contribute to 80 percent of rice production, could allow cultivable land to be used for Rabi fodder and oilseed production, thereby enhancing farmers’ income,” Nazir Ahmad, an expert and former deputy director of agriculture, said. He added that with proper drainage, paddy yield might rise and lower the requirement for paddy imports from 40 percent to 20 percent.
Although the Government prioritises increasing productivity, experts point out that irrigation infrastructure is prioritised over drainage a lot of the time. “Drainage plays a pivotal role in maintaining the pH of the soil, directly impacting production,” another expert said. He added that while a lot of funds are going towards crop irrigation, drainage is being disregarded because policymakers are unaware of the requirements.
An official in the agriculture department notes that road projects like the Ring Road in Srinagar exacerbate waterlogging, underscoring the responsibility of the Department of Irrigation and Flood Control to implement effective mechanisms. He said the lack of awareness among policymakers about drainage requirements is a major contributing factor.
The Director of Agriculture, Iqbal Chowdary, acknowledged the impact of waterlogging but emphasised that other factors also influence production. “The crucial elements are the timing of transplanting and harvest. If both are executed properly, productivity will significantly improve,” he explained. He added that the Government is implementing various measures to address challenges in paddy production.
“Attributing this year’s 5-10 percent rise in paddy output to favourable weather and timely rains. This positive trend is reinforced by early completion of seeding and successful paddy transplanting, facilitated by improved climate conditions,” he said.